Ireland has the highest rate of reported good health in EU

by Rose Barrett
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Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Public Health and Wellbeing and National Health, Hildegarde Naughton, and, Minister for Mental Health & Older People, Mary Butler have highlighted Ireland’s high rate of reported good health as documented in the State of Health in the EU Ireland: Country Health Profile 2023

The report, which is published every second year, compares Ireland with other European Union (EU) countries and the EU average across a range of indicators including health, risk factors, and the performance of the health system.

Highlights include:

  • 80% of Irish people report being in good health, the highest level in the EU
  • Ireland’s mortality rates from preventable and treatable causes being about 20% lower than respective EU averages and having declined at a faster rate over the last decade
  • Irish people at age 65 having the third highest disability-free life expectancy in the EU
  • Uptake of flu, COVID-19 and HPV vaccinations being well above the EU average
  • 96% of adults having received the full primary COVID-19 vaccination course in 2022, compared to the EU average of 82%, with 76% having received the second booster which was the second highest in the EU

Minister Donnelly said:

“These Country Health Profiles provide a concise and policy-relevant overview of health and health services in the EU/European Economic Area.  They emphasise the characteristics and challenges in each country against a backdrop of cross-country comparisons. They have helped support us in policy making and are an important means for mutual learning and voluntary exchange.”

37% of the population over 16 report doing at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, higher than the EU average of 33%. Within the same group, 33% report consuming five daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

The report also reveals that more than 35% of all deaths in Ireland are attributable to behavioural risk factors including smoking, dietary risks, alcohol consumption and low physical activity.

Minister Naughton, said:

“Investment in prevention to reverse the trends of rising levels of obesity is essential to protect the health of the population of Ireland. I am delighted to see that the levels of overweight and obesity reported by individuals has reduced by 5% over the last four years. The obesity policy and action plan (OPAP) is a ten-step plan, now in its eighth year, which is being delivered by the Department of Health with cross-Government and multi-sectoral partners under the aegis of Healthy Ireland.

“The Government is committed to address health inequalities through the Sláintecare Healthy Communities programme, with 19 Community Food and Nutrition Workers recruited over the last twelve months. This is supporting communities to engage in healthier lifestyle behaviours to promote good health in the longer term.

“I am also pleased that more people are meeting recommended levels of physical activity. As with tackling obesity, the promotion of physical activity requires a cross-sectoral approach. I look forward to building on the improvements in physical activity levels in 2024 when the successor to the National Physical Activity Plan is finalised and launched.”

The report also highlights that cancer screening rates in Ireland are generally very high at 49.5% for Colorectal cancer, 72% for Cervical cancer, which is above the EU average, and 74% for Breast Cancer.

This year for the first time the report includes a section on mental health. It outlines how Ireland’s Strategy to Reduce Suicide has contributed to declining suicide rates over the past decade.

Minister Butler, said:

“Promotion of mental well-being and improvement of services available to people experiencing mental health difficulties are key priorities for Government, and these figures are a reminder of why it is important that we retain that focus and commitment.

“I’m pleased to say that Sharing the Vision, our national mental health policy, and Connecting for Life, the national suicide and self-harm reduction strategy, are progressing under my remit as Minister for Mental Health and Older People.

“Anyone can experience mental health difficulties at any time during their lives, and it is important that we put in place appropriate services so that people can access the right care in the right place, at the right time, depending on their needs. I will continue to champion mental health promotion, early intervention and recovery in my role as Minister, as we deliver improvements across all services, and for the whole population”.

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